US News started 2017 with their ratings of popular diets. What stands out? The sheer quantity! They rated 38 – count ‘em – 38 diets, and had a panel rate them on many factors, including health, weight loss, and overall. They also classified them into such categories as best “commercial” diet, most heart-healthy, best diet for diabetics, and on.
What stood out to me? Let’s look at the top 3 diets:
- DASH diet: Long-standing winner year after year. It’s a simple concept: lots of fruits and vegetables, low-fat and fat-free dairy every day (some full-fat, too) and cut back on sodium. Developed to lower blood pressure, DASH stands for: Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension.
- Mediterranean Diet: Focus is on heart health. Like, DASH, the concepts are simple: lots of fruits and vegetables, not much red meat, plenty of fish and daily olive oil and/or nuts like almonds, hazelnuts and walnuts. Focus here is on olive oil and omega-3 fats. Another annual favorite.
- The MIND Diet: This combines some concepts from the top two diets but gets a bit more specific about certain foods to cut risk for Alzheimer’s disease. Specific fruits and vegetables include green leafy veggies and berries, two foods associated with reduced Alzheimer’s risk. Fish at least once a week, and low intakes of fatty meat, butter, and empty-calorie desserts and fried foods.
Why I love the top 3 diets
I love that they’re not really diets, just “eating styles”. There are no absolutes, no rigid “my-way-or-the-highway” rules. Nothing is prohibited forever, but there are specific to include, but enough variety to allow for favorites within each group.
And there’s solid science behind these eating styles. The research even indicates a beneficial trajectory. That is, even if people ate a diet that made some changes, even if not enough to count as a true Mediterranean or DASH diet, but approaching those, they saw reduced risk for developing Alzheimer’s. You can sustain all three of these eating styles and strong research says you’ll be healthier if you do.
Honorable Mention: #4: The Flexitarian Diet
This diet tied with several others for fourth place but I like it. It’s healthful, varied and “mostly vegetarian” but recognizes that the world is round. If you want an occasional burger or taco on this diet, it doesn’t mean you’ve “crossed over to the dark side.” High time.
What about the bottom 3?
- Paleo Diet: Despite the popularity, especially among males who want to eat like the hunter-gatherer of 10,000 years ago, this diet ranked last for weight loss, last for fast weight loss, and was considered among the most difficult to follow in modern times. Let’s not forget that 10,000 years ago the life span was short. The average 40-year-old has been dead a while.
- The Dukan Diet: This diet offers an “all-you-can-eat” theme – but only of the allowed foods. It’s big on protein. Really big, and carbs and fats are quite limited. As with most high-protein, low-carb diets, you’ll lose a lot of weight in the first week or two, but this one got low ratings for being easy to follow and maintain. Low ratings for healthfulness, too. The maintenance phase has similarities to other diets: moderation, nothing is off limits except large portions and binges. Maybe best to start with that?
- The Whole30 Diet: Bottom of the heap and I’d agree. Super-restrictive and there are absolutes. Deviations are not allowed. It only lasts 30 days and is intended so designed to push your body’s re-set button but also to fix dysfunctional relationships with food. Big claims made here and there’s no research behind this diet (Red flag of junk science – NO science). I’m against temporary diets. You’ll be in your body after 30 days but this dietary pattern probably won’t. And probably shouldn’t.
Edible Rx take-away: Choose one of the top 3 diets that you’re most comfortable with. Take all of 2017 to gradually move in that direction.